IT’S 3am at my present position on the world map, perched 40,000 feet somewhere above the Indian sub-continent. And I am sipping on Moroccan mint tea, replete with real mint leaves served on the side, and chewing on a sweet, sticky baklava. While the rest of the cabin still slumbers, I am dining at my own leisure, courtesy of Etihad Airways “Dine Anytime” menu. There’s about two hours left to go on this 14-hour flight from Australia, but this particular journey feels neither long, nor a haul. For I have the great fortune of flying in Etihad’s next-generation Business Studios. And yes, they are as sweet as the baklava upon which I am feasting.
I have boarded the B787 aircraft in Brisbane the previous night, bound for Abu Dhabi and am greeted with mystical Middle Eastern music. Inside, it’s part gentleman’s club, part plush Arabian tent with soft lighting and gold trimmings. The seats, said to provide 20 per cent more space than the airline’s current Business Class seat, are designed in a 1-2-1 forward and backwards “dovetail” configuration. With sliding screens between seats, it feels more private jet than commercial airline.
The Studio features its own steady, large solid table, ideal on which to work inflight, but unlike some other airlines, there is no free Wi-Fi. Depending on your point-of-view, this could be an enforced digital detox, or you can pay a nominal fee to stay connected. For those who wish to relax, there’s an 18-inch touch-screen TV. For those who wish to work, there’s power sockets and USB ports at every seat.
What sets this airline apart from many others is its superior service. At the Business Traveller Middle East Awards 2018, Etihad Airways was named “Airline with the Best Economy Class”; “Airline with the Best Frequent Flyer Programme” and “Airline with the Best First Class”, and it’s easy to see why. Hot towels are not clumsily handed to you with tongs, but served on individual silver platters, before you are presented with a glass of signature champagne – Piper-Heidsieck Cuvee Brut. International newspapers are delivered and from the “Dine Anytime” menu you can select from the likes of a steak sandwich, lamb and rosemary pie or a Gruyere cheese frittata. There is also a diverse a-la-carte menu from which to choose, boasting western and Middle Eastern starters such Arabic mezze; mains of chicken kasba and basmati rice cooked with Gulf spices; and deserts of chocolate lava cake served warm with pistachio anglaise. Sip on a New Zealand sauvignon blanc or South African chenin blanc, or for red lovers, a Barossa Valley shiraz or Chilean maipo. The beer selection includes Stella Artois and Peroni.
Sated, rummage through your Business Class amenity kit to apply your Scaramouche + Fandango facial moisturiser and lip balm, before donning a plush, large eye mask and ear plugs. The airline has collaborated on its amenity kits with luxury travel brand LUXE City Guides which are inspired by five cities on the Etihad network – Abu Dhabi, New York, Melbourne, Rome and Bangkok. There’s even a city guide in each kit, but it’s a slightly curious addition to be given a Rome city guide when you are flying to Abu Dhabi.
The seats recline to 6-foot, 8-inch fully flat-beds and the pillows are plump and a decent size, adorned in all the colours of the desert to which you are flying with browns, tans, ochres and golds. The doona has a gorgeous plush underside. All of this ensures you’ll arrive at the other end as fresh as possible. And I do. In the rare event you don’t, there’s even an Arrivals Lounge at Abu Dhabi Airport where staff will press your clothes while you shower and shave.
Leaving Abu Dhabi is even more spectacular, as this is their signature airline. At Abu Dhabi Airport, First and Business Class guests have their own private entrance and there’s even free porters to assist you with your bags, as well as private check-in. Both First and eligible Business Class guests also have access to a free chauffeur service within the UAE and upon arrival at the airport, both classes boast day spas in their lounges. While First Class guests can enjoy a complimentary spa treatment, Business Class guests pay a nominal fee for a treatment such as a Jet Lag massage, which is a welcome addition before a long flight.
2018 has been declared the Year of Zayed, celebrating 100 years since the birth of Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father of the UAE. And Etihad is devoted to honouring Zayed’s core values of respect; wisdom; sustainability; and human development. The airline is offering complimentary cargo flights to UAE charities, bringing aid and relief to people in need around the world in a bid to spread Zayed’s humanitarian message. At the same time, 1000 selected guests from around the world are being invited to experience Abu Dhabi’s cultural attractions; and Etihad is also collaborating on the Abu Dhabi Birdathon, a race which celebrate’s Zayed’s passion for conservation. Etihad is also renaming its training buildings the Zayed Campus and launching Young Aviators in a bid to inspire the next generation in the UAE. If you can judge a country by its flagship carrier, then Abu Dhabi is in great shape indeed.
The Global Goddess flew to Abu Dhabi as a guest of Etihad Airlines in one of their world-class Business Studios http://www.etihad.com/en-au/
She stayed as a guest of Abu Dhabi Tourism https://visitabudhabi.ae/au-en/default.aspx
JUST like this camel caravan I captured in the Sahara Desert, I’ve been working hard to attract more followers. For the past year, I’ve posted a photo a day on Instagram and recently hit my first 1000 followers. I’ve also posted more than 1000 photos, so that’s at least 1000 reasons to follow me. Here’s a selection of my most popular pics, taken from my global travels over the past six months, and published under my Instagram handle @aglobalgoddess. I’d love to see you over there.
From the desert dust to the brilliant blues of Chefchaouen, Morocco served up a kaleidoscope of colour and charm.
Indonesia’s beautiful Bawah Island gave me the blues, in the best possible way.
Finland’s Lapland was all white and all right.
Back home, the Aussie summer served up its bushfire orange sunsets and aqua beach days.
While on my first trip to Japan last month, it was better to be red, than dead.
Follow me on Instagram @aglobalgoddess
ENSCONCED in an international airline lounge you can be anyone in the world. This journey begins in the Emirates Lounge in Brisbane, where, wrapped in my purple pashmina, I pretend I am a princess of Persia. I am whiling away the hours before my flight to the Middle East, dreaming of delicious dates that dance around my mouth like music, and figs that foxtrot. I snack on bright beetroot hummus and tangy tabouli. There’s beef carpaccio with truffle pecorino. I swirl Moet around my palate to wash down white and dark chocolate profiteroles with chiboust cream filling. It’s a delectable start to an exotic trip.
Fourteen hours later, and I land in Dubai where, in this Emirates Lounge, I am a maiden of Morocco, my ultimate destination for this travel tale. This close to my delicious destination, I can already smell the souks. The riads are becoming real. In this luxe lounge I sip mint tea, take a spiffy shower and daydream of cool Casablanca nights where I am Bergman in search of her Bogart. In another six hours, the warm north African breeze will frizz my hair and curl my mind. I can’t wait to wrap the foreign place names around my tongue. Marrakech sounds like a lover. Fez, like someone who could betray me. There will be desert nights and delights. Camel rides and sleeping under the stars. Haggling in the heat. Sandals and sand storms. Mosques and mountains. I am brimming with wonderment.
International airline lounges offer us that rare, brief, delightful pause in our travels. I want to announce to all of the other strangers with whom I share this sacred space that I’m off to Casablanca, slowly sounding out each brilliant consonant. But they are entwined in their own fabulous fantasies. Instead, I use this as a chance to stretch my legs and unleash my over-stimulated mind, allowing it to roam free. For it is here, waiting in airports, that we forage among our imagination and dare to dream of new horizons and bold beginnings. We think of old lovers and new friends we are yet to meet. As for Emirates, it’s one of the best in the business. Would I travel with them again? Play it again, Sam.
The Global Goddess was a guest in both lounges of Emirates https://www.emirates.com/au/english/ and is travelling in Morocco as a guest of Intrepid Travel https://www.intrepidtravel.com/au/morocco/morocco-uncovered-100927
I DON’T wish to be a braggart, but I have finally found the one exercise class at which I excel. Sleeping. And if you don’t think that counts as physical fitness, then you’d better talk to the fine folk at Brisbane’s InspireCycle gym, for it is here that late last week I discovered my special gift. Yes, I attended my first Napercise class. What is Napercise? Well, this pop-up class at the Teneriffe-based fitness centre, sponsored by Naptime Australia who specialise in all sorts of sleeping products, is an exercise class where you basically, well, have a nap. Yes, I forked out $15 to drive across the other side of the city on a Friday afternoon, to have a 45-minute sleep.
I’d read about this a few weeks prior on Facebook and was intrigued by the concept. It’s all the rage in major cities like London and New York and it appears Brisbane has now leapt into bed on the act. But what does one wear? Should I buy a baby pink pig onesie for this class? Who else would be there? Would I meet the man of my dreams (see what I did there?). What if I snore? What if someone else snores, can I smother them with a pillow? So many questions plagued my every waking hour leading up to this class.
Driving across Brisbane mid afternoon Friday I could see the last stragglers dragging their sorry bottoms back to their-city offices after lunch for those last, utterly miserable moments of the working week. “I’m going to nap class,” I wanted to shout out of my car window at the traffic lights. I could feel their weariness in every bone in my body.
I arrive at class and my instructor Tess bounces out of the nap room. She’s just had a nap herself. I look around me and it slowly dawns on me that I am the only one here. Tess says they’ve been attracting between 9 and 12 people every day for the past two weeks of the pop up, but today being a Friday, and the last day of Napercise (for now), turns out I’m the only one.
So I’ve paid $15 and driven across the other side of the city on a busy Friday afternoon to lay in a room on my own and nap? I could have done this at home. I smile at the irony. There’s half a dozen beds in the middle of the room from which to choose and another four over near the wall. I feel like an exotic blend between Goldilocks and Sleeping Beauty. I choose the bed closest to the door and Tess takes me through some basic stretches. Then, she lifts up the doona, invites me to slide into bed (on my own, no monkey business here, although Tess is rather lovely) and put on an eye mask, before she tucks me in and leaves the room.
I lay in the middle of a cavernous gym room, on my own, under a doona trying not to laugh. I feel like I am on school camp without the other campers. Should I try to sleep? What if Tess forgets about me and doesn’t come back to wake me up in 45 minutes as promised. What if she closes the gym for the night and goes home? I reason with myself that at least I have a bed. I also figure gyms always have energy drinks and bliss balls. There’s always bloody bliss balls. I won’t starve, they have showers and toilets, I have food and water, and I’ve got somewhere comfy to sleep. But worse, what if this is a front for some white woman slave trade and one minute I’m slipping under a doona in Brisbane, and the next, I wake up on a cold, hard slab in Istanbul with a scar where one of my kidneys is meant to be?
I’ve just finished this trapped-in-a-gym fantasy when Tess returns to the room and gently tells me it’s time to wake up. She asks whether I slept and looks disappointed when I tell her I only really rested. (If only she knew what my mind was churning through). I assure her it was a nice rest, and anyway, I’m a huge fan of quirky and this was definitely quirky. Tess then presents me with a free pair of slippers, socks and a facial mask, telling me everyone who attends Napercise gets a gift. I jump in my car and drive home. Frankly, I’m exhausted and I can’t wait to get to bed.
(Postscript: the next day I wake up to an email from InspireCycle and I’ve “earned” 20 points towards another class for my “efforts” in this class).
The Global Goddess paid for her own Napercise Class at InspireCycle, Teneriffe. Check out their website for other great classes http://www.inspirecycle.com.au If Naptime’s beds were as comfortable as the one on which I rested, you might also want to check out this Australian company, and other Napercise classes around the country, at http://www.naptime.com.au
“This year I do not want the dark to leave me. I need its wrap of silent stillness, its cloak of long-lasting embrace. Let the dawns come late, let the sunsets arrive early, let the evenings extend themselves while I lean into the abyss of my being,” Joyce Rupp, Winter’s Cloak
IN summer, we learn to live again. In winter, we learn about ourselves. And the presence of a wild snake on one’s back deck is, arguably, one of life’s great teachers. I used to be scared of snakes, having grown up in country Queensland where scorching summers were punctuated by frequent snake sightings. Red Belly Blacks and King Browns were the order of the day out there, the type of rebellious reptiles that could easily kill a small child. And so I learned to fear those slithering serpents of my youth. But several years ago, when I first spotted a carpet snake on my back deck, I decided to finally face my fear. On the one hand, this was made much easier by the fact it’s a harmless common Eastern Australian carpet python. On the other hand, a snake is still a snake.
Anastasia arrived first, who departed only to be replaced by Sylvia, who grew from a one-metre juvenile in the first year, into a three-metre monster by her third. Too fat to fit back into the ceiling cavity, she departed, only to be replaced by Saskia, who arrived about a year ago. Saskia, like Sylvia, was also slim, but with a ready diet of bush rats and possums right out the back, she too has grown. And now she’s possibly the fattest snake I’ve ever seen. My anaconda girl also measures about three metres long, but sports the beer belly of a Brisbane bogan. Lay off the possums, I want to advise, particularly given I gain great comfort from their roaring thunder along my timber roof late at night. To me, that’s the soundtrack to living in Brisbane, and I love it.
So, what have I learned from my snake this winter? The first lesson is that it’s important to slow down. While my snake is still surprisingly active, even in winter, she moves at a slower pace. She basks on the back deck in the winter sunshine, that I, too crave. Learn to love the softer light, she seems to whisper to me. Take the time to laze. Stretch. Sleep. We need these seasons to rejuvenate. Reflect. Retreat inwards. For in a place like Brisbane, where the summers are long and lusty, it’s too easy to keep running. And run out of steam.
My sassy Saskia has also taught me while it’s important to eat, don’t eat too much. Fuelled by her latest possum catch, and a ridiculously distended belly, she tried and failed many times to return to her ceiling cavity the other afternoon as the sun signalled its early afternoon departure. She crawled and wiggled and pretty much looked like I do every winter when it comes to trying on that first pair of jeans. Eventually, she gave up. And whether she will return is anyone’s guess. I’ve learned to grow OK with that too.
She’s taught me to shed my skin a little. Be vulnerable. And she’s taught me to face my fears. In an ideal world, there would be no wild snakes on my back deck. But history has taught me that not long after one has departed, another one arrives. They are territorial like that. And so, I must embrace this paradigm. Just as winter follows autumn, the seasons will keep on changing. I used to hate winter too. The short days, the cold mornings, being constrained by too many clothes. By nature I’m a summer frock girl who loves being in the water. Those beautiful balmy evenings, bare feet and ice-cold beer. But I’m slowly learning that life is also about embracing the shadow side. Not only in nature, but in myself and others. Instead of rejecting the things I dislike about myself, learning to acknowledge them as a part of a greater sum.
I’m back on the yoga mat this winter, a nourishing alternative when the water is too cold in which to swim, and last week we celebrated the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere. The days are starting to grow longer and pretty soon, they will grow warmer again. But for now, I’m going to relish the words of Joyce Rupp: “Let me lie in the cave of my soul, for too much light blinds me, steals the source of revelation. Let me seek solace in the empty places of winter’s passage, those vast dark nights that never fail to shelter me.” Wherever you are in the world, whatever the season of your soul, I hope you find solace too.
ON a balmy Brisbane evening I am slouched under a magnificent tree, savouring a plate of colourful African fare and sipping a Tusker malt lager. There’s but a whisper of a wind on this hot summer evening, just enough to scatter the tree’s tiny white flowers onto the faded tablecloth like confetti. The flowers fall into my hair and onto my head, like little sparks of inspiration.
I’m at Mu’ooz Eritrean Restaurant in West End, surrounded by fellow writers, artists, poets, singers and daydream believers, attending Wild Readings. I blew in here a little like the white flowers, an invitation from a friend to join this underground movement of creatives, who gather on the third Tuesday of every month. It is here that they soak up the collective juices, which are threatened with drought when you are alone for too long in a big city, stalked by the shadows of conformity.
The host opens the night by describing Wild Readings as a “public series for the storyteller in all of us.”
“We’d like to build a community of storytellers and people who just want to listen to words,” she says.
There are four readings in this delicious hour, Alanna uses art to tell stories about mental health and is reading from her book called “The Letter R” for Resilience. You need a lot of resilience to be a writer anywhere in the world, and it’s apt for this setting in which I find myself.
Tina is a published author and runs a children’s and young adults’ writers conference in Brisbane, fuelling the fire of future generations of crazy creatives.
Really, they should be building asylums for those of us insane enough to keep striking the keyboard in a world which begs us to do otherwise. And yet, thank God, we continue.
Annie, a program co-ordinator for newly-arrived refugees, picks up a ukulele and strums her story. There are others, a couple of poets and an author, but it’s Annie and her uke which strike a literal and metaphorical chord with me this evening.
I didn’t leave the house expecting to find a story, but in this salacious setting how could I not? Not only am I inspired by the passion and prose of my fellow artists, but Mu’ooz itself is a not-for-profit social enterprise, established by Eritrean Refuge Women, which assists women arriving in Brisbane from many parts of Africa.
Shortly before the evening begins, I stumble across Manager Saba Abraham, who opened the West End location three years ago and since then has provided training and employment for more than 100 refugee women.
“We provide a pathway to employment with many of the women now employed in other places including schools, factories and cleaning jobs,” she says.
“The program aims to give them confidence and help them understand the workforce.
“Women refugees have minimal employment opportunities and many of them have never had any education in their country, therefore finding it extremely challenging in Australia, to learn the language and secure employment.
“Many of them feel like this is home to them, it is much more than a workplace.”
Saba tells me the business is not without its challenges, rents in West End are high and there is still a disconnect between mainstream Australia and what they are trying to achieve, even in this socially-progressive suburb.
Which is a great shame, as the food here is different and delicious, boasting many dishes and ingredients even a well-travelled Australian palate may have never tasted such as Enjera – savoury purple pancakes; Silsie – a traditional Eritrean sauce; Berbere – traditional hot pepper seasoning; and Tasame – butter flavoured with Eritrean herbs and spices.
I sip on my second Tusker malt lager, a beer I’ve never encountered before – and the white leaves keep falling on my head, urging me to write this story. A tale of a little courtyard in Brisbane, a meeting of people with big hearts and those cursed with that damn desire to write.
We are gathered on the traditional land of the Jagera, Yuggera and Yuggerapul people and we pay homage to them. A Yuggera elder has penned a Welcome to Country for us: “Everything sits in a circle around us. When we open ourselves to looking and listening it allows us to connect with Mother Earth, everyone’s Mother.”
On this hot night, I embrace the circle of refugees and creatives and watch as those tiny flowers keep falling, reminding me to keep writing.
The next Wild Readings will be held on Tuesday, Feb 21 at Mu’ooz West End at 6pm for 6.30pm. You can join Wild Readings on their Facebook page. To dine at Mu’ooz and support their incredible work, go to http://www.muooz.com.au
I AM lounging in a pool observing a 747 soar above me, indulging in two of my favourite past times: swimming and plane spotting, in this case, simultaneously. I feel a little like a Bond girl, clad only in a bikini in a secret spot of one of the world’s busiest airports. Stopover: Singapore. Final Destination: Male. And my mission? To relax enroute to my assignment.
It’s a signature Singapore Saturday afternoon, the humidity as high as a Serbian spy, and I have stripped from my trademark all-black travel clothes which I fancy make me look sophisticated, but in truth are only to disguise the fact I spill plane drinks and food all over me when I fly. Changi Airport is buzzing below, but I am ensconced in the peace of the Plaza Premium Group’s Aerotel transit hotel.
Fellow agent S (for sister) and I land in Singapore mid afternoon, slip undetected onto a free train, and scurry effortlessly to Terminal 1. The Aerotel Hotel is perched near Gate D41, and comes replete with clean, comfortable hotel rooms, a library/lounge area, and best of all, the swimming pool – touted as the only absolute airside pool in the world.
Here, in this cool pool, you can order a beer and watch the tails on the tarmac. This funky facility is ideal for travellers such as me who fly often, in economy, (under the guise of being a travel writer) and need some rest or space to work.
While there are a number of packages on offer here, depending if you simply want a room, or a swim, one of the best is the Swim, Eat, Tan, Run, Repeat package where you can plunge into the pool, snatch a shower and enjoy a meal and drink for as little as USD25 for three hours.
On this journey, I also had access to a room whose comfortable beds rival those in any five-star hotel in which I’ve stayed. My only complaint: there was no hair conditioner in the shower. (Hey, even secret agents have their vanity). And while the bar had a good selection of international and local beers and other alcohol, the food menu could be drastically improved, particularly in a destination such as Singapore which is renowned for its dining.
The Aerotel Hotel falls under the umbrella of the Plaza Premium Group – the world’s largest independent airport lounge network which has another transit hotel of the same name in Abu Dhabi and Plaza Premium Lounges in Brisbane, London Heathrow, Hong Kong, Taipei and Kuala Lumpur. Sydney Sky Lounge is also managed by the Plaza Premium Group which was also appointed to manage Cathay Pacific’s First and Business Class Lounges in London Heathrow from December. Anyway who has ever watched a Bond movie knows it all happens around Heathrow, so this is a strategic move in my humble opinion.
On my journey home through Changi Airport from the Maldives, S and I had around three to four hours to kill (or was that people?) and chose Singapore’s Plaza Premium Lounge, also in Terminal 1, at the opposite end to the Aerotel Hotel. (Best to mix it up so we don’t arouse suspicions). The atmosphere in this 7000 square foot lounge is one of pure relaxation and again, you can buy a package which includes drinks, food, shower and lounge seating. All-day dining includes signature Singapore dishes such as laksa and chicken rice, but again I found the food surprisingly bland and uninspiring. The bar, however, was well stocked with good quality house red and white wines, among spirits and beers.
This is a lovely lounge in which to while away a few hours in one of its many nooks and crannies with everything from three private resting suites, six shower rooms, two VIP rooms, massage and nail care services, free Wi-Fi, charging stations, flight information, baggage handling, TV channels, and a selection of newspapers and magazines.
Back in my hometown of Brisbane (or is it, really?), two weeks later I flew out to Indonesia on my final assignment of 2016, and I opted to check out the latest lounge in the Plaza Premium Group, which is a welcome addition to Brisbane International Airport. The Brisbane lounge is the first of the brand in Australia and is located on Level 4 between departure gates 81 and 82. With a seating capacity of 100 over 4500 square feet, it’s furnished with Victorian ash wood and Italian marble flooring in the bar area. A feature wall of 3D tiles are inspired by the components of water, sand and minerals in Australia and soaring windows fill the lounge with natural sunlight and offer views over the terminal and runway.
This state-of-the-art lounge also boasts a Wellness Spa where professionally-trained therapists use Australian spa products from Brisbane-based Jasmin Organics. But for $49 for a 15-minute hand therapy, particularly for travellers like me who are flying to Bali, prices are steep. In the lounge itself, guests also enjoy free Wi-Fi, charging stations, a hot meal buffet, salad bar, freshly-brewed barista-made coffee, and alcohol, soft drinks and juices. Again, I found the food selection a little uninspiring and had to ask several times for a champagne from staff who didn’t quite understand my request. I mean, it was 8am, but a spy needs a drink. There are some criticisms that the entry fee is too expensive for a Brisbane flying public, particularly compared to places like Singapore, but when I was there the lounge was pumping.
Overall, I enjoyed my brief sojourn in Brisbane’s Plaza Premium Lounge, and as I perched on the signature honeycomb seating and contemplated my last trip of 2016, I nearly didn’t leave. But Agent M was calling, and she wanted me on that plane.
The Global Goddess was a guest of the Plaza Premium Group. For more details go to http://www.plazapremiumgroup.com